Oman sends ambassador to Syria, the first from Arab Gulf country
DUBAI –Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Sunday accepted the credentials of Omani Ambassador Turki bin Mahmood al-Busaidy, appointed to the post in a royal decree in March, state news agency ONA said.
During the ambassador’s reception in Damascus, Muallem expressed “pride in Omani foreign policy” and appreciation for “the close fraternal relations between the countries,” according to Oman’s state news agency.
The Syrian foreign minister previously made three visits to Muscat, the first in 2015, the second in March 2018 and the third to offer condolences for the death of Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said last January.
Oman’s new ambassador said he looks forward to “expanding the paths of cooperation and shared interests between the two brotherly countries,” the statement added.
Oman is the first Arab Gulf state to send an ambassador back to Syria.
Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League in 2011, and Arab countries have sanctioned Damascus and condemned attacks by the government on peaceful protests at the start of what later turned into a deadly war.
Oman is one of the rare Arab countries that kept diplomatic relations with the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad after the 2011 uprising, despite pressure from the United States and other Gulf allies.
Some Arab states are seeking reconciliation with Damascus after decisive gains by pro-government forces in the conflict, aiming to expand their influence in Syria at the expense of non-Arab Turkey and Iran, who have backed Assad and whose expansionist policies have sparked concern in the region.
Oman, whose Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said pledged when assuming power in January to continue maintaining friendly ties with all nations, kept its embassy open, as did Bahrain.
Muscat’s policy allowed the sultanate to play the role of a mediator in many conflicts in the region.
Experts point to Arab wavering on the Syrian file in light of prevailing divisions among countries in the region.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit denied on Saturday that there is a move to reinstate the frozen seat of Damascus, reflecting divisions among the League’s members.
During a phone call Sunday with United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stressed his country’s commitment to supporting any effort to resolve the Syrian crisis in a way that preserves Syria’s unity and national sovereignty.
Shoukry also stressed the need for a decisive confrontation with terrorist and extremist organisations and their regional supporters.
There is growing Arab concern about Turkey’s role in turning northern Syria into an incubator for terrorists and mercenaries to help advance its expansionist plans.
Turkey has reportedly sent thousands of fighters to the Caucasus region to support Azerbaijan in its fight against Armenia, after deploying mercenaries to Libya. The Turkish moves have raised concerns in the region, with Arab countries deploring a serious threat not only to the region’s stability but to global peace and security.
In recent years, there has been criticism of Arab countries’ policies on the Syrian crisis. The United Arab Emirates and Algeria previously expressed the need to reconsider the Arab approach.
In late 2018, the UAE reopened its mission to Damascus in a diplomatic boost to Assad, and sent a charge d’affaires there.
The UAE was one of several regional states to back rebel groups in Syria, though its role was less prominent than those of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have so far held off reestablishing ties with Damascus.
Kuwait has said it would reopen its mission in Damascus if there is agreement in the Arab League, which suspended Syria’s membership in 2011.
Assad has recovered control of most of Syria with support from Russia and Iran — Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s foe — as well as Iranian-backed Shia groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The United States has imposed new sanctions aimed at cutting off funds to Assad’s government and warned that anyone doing business with Damascus is at risk of being blacklisted.